I played baseball for a long time as a kid. My mom still talks about the countless hours she spent on dusty Little League fields all over New Haven.
My career, such as it was, was nothing to mention. I played from the ages of 8 or 9 to 14. Most of the early days were spent playing two innings or getting to bat a single time. I remember standing in right field at Betsy Ross Field, marking off the number of steps from the foul line, the view of the tennis courts behind the batter, knowing that if a ball went over my head it would end up in the marshy reeds behind me.
I did have a few days of glory. I once pitched in a game and was responsible for making all six outs myself (three strikeouts, caught a pop up, picked a guy off, and threw out a batter on a ground ball back to me, thanks very much!) I still remember striking a guy out looking (3-2 count, pitch was low and inside – probably was ball four.) I had a couple of three hit games. I remember hitting a double of one of the best pitchers in the league. I think I was more stunned then he was. I think I hit .253 in my career (yes, I was the nerdy kid who knew his batting average, no matter how bad it was). I know I am undefeated on the mound … 1-0. Like the minor league pitcher Bill Ferrell in Ball Four, you can just call me A Thousand.
As a kid, one of my constant companions was the Baseball Encyclopedia. The volume, the Domesday Book of the baseball world, contained the stats of every man who ever appeared in a major league game and a few tidbits of biographical information. A nickname, perhaps, and where they lived and died. I loved the book – I thumbed through the whole thing. I could tell you the names of ton of obscure ballplayers whose fame, if they ever had any, had lone since subsided.
What I learned, much to my fascination, was that New Haven had a major league professional baseball team. Yep, for one glorious year, 1875, my home city was big league. The team, named the New Haven Elm Citys, played in the National Association, a paleozoic version of Major League Baseball – a evolutionary point towards the game we know today.
I’ve decided to research that lone season and write about what I find – the thought of creating a blog on one subject, and attempting to complete that subject, was appealing to me. I’ve already gone through months of the long defunct New Haven Palladium newspaper with more to follow.
Why tackle such an obscure subject?
Maybe I want to remember how it felt to stand in a dusty batter’s box, a little scared, wearing a polyester uniform and an ill-fitting helmet, thinking about the thousands of men who made their marks in a heavy blue covered book, having been to a place where I would never go.